Weather Vane, one of the most consistent, successful and beloved Maryland-breds of recent years, broke an ankle yesterday during a workout at Pimlico. She underwent surgery at the New Bolton Center during which three screws were inserted to stabilize the fracture.
"She's back in a stall, standing, even eating a little bit," said Pete Dillon, one of her owners, after visiting Weather Vane last night. "The prognosis is good."
In 36 starts over three years, Weather Vane won 17 races, of which 14 were stakes. Despite racing primarily in Maryland's blue-collar stakes, she rang up earnings of $724,532.
With three days left in her 4-year-old season, Weather Vane had completed a five-eighths-mile workout yesterday morning when her rider, the jockey Mario Pino, felt her suddenly favor her right front leg. He slowed her to a stop, hopped off and walked her back to her barn.
"My heart sank," said Pino, who rode Weather Vane in nearly all her races. "She was just a special horse. She was always the smallest horse in the paddock, but she probably had the biggest heart."
X-rays revealed a fractured right front ankle. Her trainer, Dick Delp, arranged for the filly to be transported to the New Bolton Center, a large-animal hospital in Kennett Square, Pa.
Weather Vane was to race Sunday in the Francis Scott Key Stakes at Laurel Park. Her owners, Par Four Racing Stable, had planned on racing her sparingly in 1999, hoping to attain $1 million in earnings, and then breeding her or selling her as a broodmare.
"We're just happy it's not worse than it is," Dillon said. "She's been on the racetrack without injury since April '96. She's just been tremendously durable."
Dillon said he and his partners, his son-in-law Bill Delp and Bill's brother Gary, won't even consider trying to bring Weather Vane back to the races.
"She's been too good to us," Dillon said. "She doesn't owe us five cents."
Bill Delp bought the filly's mother, But in Vain, for $1,000 and then bred her to the stallion Willard Scott when his fee was $750. On April 17, 1994, that modest mating produced Weather Vane.
"I don't think people fully appreciate what that filly did with that kind of breeding," Pino said. "I've ridden a lot of fillies, but never a filly like that."
Dillon said he was almost relieved after the injury, assuming Weather Vane recovers completely.
"The fear and worry that it could happen on the racetrack when she was full out was always in the back of your mind," Dillon said. "The ol' Lord works in mysterious ways. Maybe he was looking over our shoulders and said, 'This is enough for her.' "
Pub Date: 12/30/98